20 March 2007 15:12 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Tuesday’s final report by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) on the deadly explosion at the BP Texas refinery in Texas City takes the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration to task for insufficient enforcement actions and too few process safety inspections.
“OSHA’s national focus on inspecting facilities with high injury rates, while important, has resulted in reduced attention to preventing less frequent, but catastrophic, process safety incidents such as the one at ?xml:namespace>
The report details the CSB’s probe of the 23 March 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others at the isomerisation unit at the 460,000 bbl/day refinery.
“OSHA’s capability to inspect highly hazardous facilities and to enforce process safety regulations is insufficient; very few comprehensive process safety inspections were conducted prior to the [refinery isomerisation unit] incident," the board said, "and only a limited number of OSHA inspectors have the specialised training and experience needed to perform these complex examinations.”
The report said OSHA concluded in the early 1990s that the petrochemical industry had a lower accident frequency than the rest of manufacturing, but noted that the
The federal OSHA conducted no planned programme quality verification (PQV) inspections in oil refineries from 1995 to March 2005. PQV inspections are the main tool for enforcement by the agency, the safety board said, but such inspections “are infrequent and an insufficient number of inspectors are qualified to conduct them”.
In the years prior to the explosion, OSHA did conduct several non-PQV inspections at the Texas City site but did not identify the likelihood of a catastrophic incident, said the board, adding: “Nor did OSHA prioritise planned inspections of the refinery to enforce process safety regulations, despite warning signs.”
Following the blast, OSHA uncovered 301 violations of safety standards for which BP paid a $21m (€15.7m) fine, the largest ever issued by the agency.
However, OSHA did not conduct a comprehensive inspection of any of the other 29 process units at the
Despite its criticism of OSHA, the safety panel put most of the blame for the fatal accident on BP, saying the company's flawed safety culture, constant budget pressures, inadequate worker training and an aging infrastructure made a recipe for disaster.
The CSB was scheduled to vote on Tuesday night on the final report and its recommendations.($1 = €0.75)
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